How to Read Literature Like a Professor

The Bible Symbol Icon

There is no text more important to the Western literary tradition than the Bible. While the Bible itself is a remarkable piece of literature, filled with epic tales, memorable characters, and poetic imagery, the Bible’s influence on subsequent literary traditions has often been indirect and subtle. As Foster demonstrates, picking up on Biblical archetypes and symbolism can be tricky, especially when they appear in decidedly modern, secular texts.

However, drawing out these connections is useful as a way of understanding how all literature is connected through a giant web of intertextuality. It also reveals the way that patterns and symbols can be transposed and given a completely new meaning in a different context. From a religious perspective, the stories in the Bible each have a strong moral message that helps people live their lives according to God’s will. Once material from the Bible is recycled within a piece of literature, however, the original moral message will often be modified, complicated, or subverted.

The Bible Quotes in How to Read Literature Like a Professor

The How to Read Literature Like a Professor quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Bible. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Surface Reading vs. Deeper Reading Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of How to Read Literature Like a Professor published in 2014.
Chapter 6 Quotes

The devil, as the old saying goes, can quote Scripture. So can writers. Even those who aren't religious or don't live within the Judeo-Christian tradition may work something in from Job or Matthew or the Psalms.

Related Symbols: The Bible
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

Fiction and poetry and drama are not necessarily playgrounds for the overly literal. Many times I'll point out that a character is Christlike because he does X and Y and you might come back with, "But Christ did A and Z and his X wasn't like that, and besides, this character listens to AC/DC."

Related Characters: Jesus Christ
Related Symbols: The Bible
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Bible Symbol Timeline in How to Read Literature Like a Professor

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bible appears in How to Read Literature Like a Professor. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6: …Or the Bible
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Archetype and Pattern Recognition Theme Icon
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...have been reworking and responding to Shakespeare’s work since his death, so too has the Bible played a fundamental role in the Western literary canon. Texts that seemingly could not be... (full context)
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Writers don’t just borrow figures, symbols, and plots from the Bible, but also passages and phrases that might show up as titles, such as in John... (full context)
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Early English literature is particularly infused with references to the Bible, as writers during this era lived within a culture dominated by religion. However, even later... (full context)
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Many characters in works of literature are also named after Biblical figures. This can provide information about a character’s personality; on a more complex level, it... (full context)
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Foster admits it can be difficult to identify Biblical allusions if one is not a scholar of the Bible. On the other hand, it... (full context)
Chapter 7: Hanseldee and Greteldum
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...subtle as “the sense of lostness” or the danger of temptation. Like Shakespeare and the Bible, fairy tales are all part of “one big story” and so are inherently connected to... (full context)
Chapter 8: It’s Greek to Me
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Shakespeare, the Bible, and fairy tales are all types of myth. That doesn’t mean they are not true... (full context)
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As with reworkings of the Bible and fairy tales, Greek myths are often updated in an ironic way. Both James Joyce’s... (full context)
Chapter 9: It’s More Than Just Rain or Snow
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...just weather.” Types of weather often have significant symbolic meaning; rain, for example, invokes the Biblical story of Noah, and with it the fear of drowning and the promise of beginning... (full context)
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Rainbows are another important weather symbol, with close ties to the Biblical story of Noah, in which God signals through a rainbow that He will never again... (full context)